Louisiana Teen Booked for ‘Terrorizing’ With YouTube Video
A Louisiana high school student was arrested and charged with terrorizing and interference with the operation of a school after authorities discovered his online video depicting the simulated assassinations of his classmates.
The 15-year-old H.L. Bourgeois High School student was questioned and arrested after worried parents saw the video on YouTube and contacted the Terrebonne Parish Sheriff’s Department.
The video was created using a smartphone app called Real Strike, which combines a first-person shooter video game experience with the phone’s real-world camera feed. The app lets you “shoot” the people around you and upload the resulting videos to the Internet.
“You can’t ignore it,” Major Malcolm Wolfe told WGNO. “We don’t know at what time that game becomes reality.”
Wolfe said the teen, who was not named due to his age, said he made the video out of frustration with bullies at his school.
“He said that he had no intentions of hurting anybody. We have to take all threats seriously and we have no way of knowing that without investigating and getting to the bottom of it.”
“With all the school shooting we’ve had in the United States, it’s just not a very good game to be playing at this time,” Wolfe said.
Video’s Context is Key
The student’s YouTube video has since been taken down, so it’s not known if the video included specific threats or indications that the student intended to follow the video up with actual violence.
Louisiana’s law against terrorizing prohibits the “intentional communication of information that the commission of a crime of violence is imminent or in progress or that a circumstance dangerous to human life exists or is about to exist, with the intent of causing members of the general public to be in sustained fear for their safety.”
Los Angeles attorney Darren Kavinoky said the terrorizing charges may be justified “if there was something in the narration that would cause a reasonable person to believe that there was a threat and there was some imminency to it.”
If the video depicted the shootings without commentary, or if the commentary made clear it was a joke, it could be harder to make the charge stick. Terrebonne Parish District Attorney Joseph L. Waitz, Jr. has not announced whether he will prosecute the case.
Kavinoky said that in light of recent school shootings and mass shootings, “there may be some things that prosecutors now consider criminal that they may not have considered so some time ago.”
Law Behind the Times?
Kavinoky told Lawyers.com the case may be an example of the law lagging behind new technology and changing societal norms.
“In the law, it seems like we’re always dealing with a swinging pendulum,” Kavinoky said. “There’s always a gap between the law and the activities of society.”
Kavinoky said it’s common for teenagers to play online games and upload their gameplay videos to the Internet.
“This may just be an example of how society is changing and normal youthful behavior is changing, and law enforcement may be oversensitive to it.”
“With young people being bullied and feeling frustrated, the problem may not be the video, but rather the behavior that leads to these kinds of feelings in the first place,” Kavinoky said, adding that the case may be fodder for “social commentary more than legal commentary.”
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